Monteverdi, Claudio - L'Orfeo (2 CD) - Cappella Musicale di San Petronio

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Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)
L'Orfeo; Favols in Musica

Monteverdi's Orfeo has its musical origins in the two stylistic schools, contending, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, for primacy in the invention of opera, that of Florence and that of Ferrara (and consequently of Rome, where Cavalieri and Merulo combined in a circle opposed to the influence of Florence, together with Luzzaschi and the Ferrara musicians who had moved there after the death of Alfonso II d'Estate and the absorption of Ferrara into the Papal states). The first of these was imposed, so to speak, through the tastes and circle of Duke Vincenzo (married for the second time in 1584 to Eleonora, daughter of the Grand Duke Francesco de'Medici) who was present at the performance of Peri's Euridice in Florence on 6th October 1600, on the occasion of the wedding of Maria de'Medici, sister of Eleonora, and King Henri IV of France. The Florentine element was certainly present in Mantua in those years, if the protagonist of Orfeo was that Francesco Rasi, represented perhaps by the court painter Domenico Fetti, who had been a pupil of Giulio Caccini and who was Aminta in Peri's Euridice and also sang in Marco da Gagliano's Dafne in 1608, a year after the first performance of Orfeo, on the occasion of the wedding of Francesco Gonzaga and Margherita of Savoy. For this wedding Monteverdi offered the lost opera Arianna, of which only the Lamento survives (Naxos 8.553320 Baroque Laments Vol. 3), the Ballo delle ingrate (Naxos 8.553322) and the Scherzi musicali: in fact one of the better known and more disturbing letters of the composer (2nd December 1608), after the demanding labour of the wedding, shows the discomfort and perhaps hostility that Monteverdi harboured with regard to the circles in Florence: What clearer proof does your Lordship want! To give two hundred scudi to Marco de Galiani, who, it can be said, did nothing and to me who did what I did to give nothing!

The Ferrara and then Roman component, on the other hand, is present in stylistic examples that were more welcome to Monteverdi, the virtuoso vocal brilliance of the ladies of Ferrara (perhaps it was not by chance that the first performance of Orfeo on 24th February 1607 and the second on 1st March were given in the Duke's palace in Mantua in the apartments of the widow of Alfonso II d'Este) had its basis in the supreme mastery of the madrigal of Luzzasco Luzzaschi (to whom Gesualdo himself declared his indebtedness) who sought also in vain for employment at Mantua with the offer of his madrigals for one, two or three sopranos, after the death of Alfonso II had put an end to that wonderful balance between poetry and music of which the d'Este were such jealous guardians. Actually that guardianship had harmed Luzzaschi, who had not been able to enjoy the publicity that the Medici had bestowed on their own musicians and their activities. The presence of castrati is also a sign of Florentine influence and was almost certainly imposed on Monteverdi, who on the contrary derived from Ferrara a particular predisposition towards female singers. In fact the allocation of a part as expressive as that of La Musica, of Proserpina and perhaps of Speranza to the castrato, also a pupil of Caccini, Giovan Gualberto Magli (who at the performance of 1st March before all the ladies of this city gave great satisfaction with his singing to everyone and especially to My Lady, as Prince Francesco, to whom the work was dedicated, reports) and the part of Eurydice entrusted to a little priest appears in glaring contrast to the noble and expressive interpreters of Arianna, the Florentine Settimia as Venus and, in the principal rôle, poor Caterina Martinelli, Monteverdi's pupil replaced by the famous Virginia Andreini, who also sang the part of the Ingrata in Monteverdi's Ballo delle ingrate. The fact too that the part of Orpheus was taken by a tenor can be related to the influence of Caccini, who in his Nuove Musiche actually shows himself not particularly appreciative of artificial voices. Furthermore the Lady Eleonora must have felt intense nostalgia and a particular preference for all that reminded her of Florence and perhaps a certain intolerance for what was offered her in Mantua, at a court that was 'foreign' and quite provincial, as well as harsh in climate (as the famous Adriana Basile had observed in the negotiations for her engagement there). The situation was not unlike that of her sister Maria, who had taken so many Florentines to Paris and, in 1604, Caccini himself.

Of Monteverdi's Orfeo there have come down to us the libretto (published in 1607 with the ducal imprint of Francesco Osanna on the occasion of the first performance in Mantua) and two scores, published by Ricciardo Amadino in Venice in 1609 and in 1615, that show the opera to have had a circulation beyond the confines of Mantua. The reputation of the work is witnessed by other sources: for example the varied version of the aria Ecco pur ch'a voi ritorno (‘Here I am, returned to you’), preserved in Florence and included in the present recording (an aria that, together with the other aria Vi ricorda o boschi ombrosi, bears an impressive resemblance to the Scherzi musicali of 1607) and many manuscript annotations (for example in the double harp part in the aria Possente spirto found in the copy of the 1615 edition preserved in Wroclaw). Furthermore we know of at least one performance of Orfeo in Genoa and we may assume others (in Milan, where Monteverdi had passages from Orfeo performed and where he met Aquilino Coppini, who arranged various madrigals of his as sacred works, in Naples, in Florence and perhaps abroad, where Monteverdi was known and even translated).

The libretto of Count Alessandro Striggio the younger is notably effective and less rhetorical and didactic than that which Ottavio Rinuccini would have been able to provide, although the latter is linguistically more elegant. Striggio, as a well-lettered writer, follows the style of Petrarch but in the scenes in the Underworld has recourse to an imitation of Dante; the great aria Possente spirto (‘Powerful Spirit’) is actually in the form of Dante's terza rima, while Speranza quotes the famous verse from Canto III of Dante's Inferno, Lasciate ogni Speranza voi che entrate (‘Abandon hope, all you who enter here’).

In an aria of this kind Monteverdi shows the typical vocal variation technique of Ferrara, while making clear reference to Florentine ornamentation. In the present recording the great aria is presented in two versions, simple and ornamented. This above all is determined by the necessity to allow finally to be heard the version that is never performed and that differs sometimes melodically from the ornamented version. A close examination of the score, however, reveals an indication in complete contrast with what seems to be prescribed in the rubric at the beginning of the aria. In fact after the first strophe there is a clear indication for a ritornello that legitimises what ought to be the normal development of the aria: first the performance of the simple version, followed then by the more elaborate version. This is in line with the practice of the period and what would be classified in Baroque opera as da capo. A possible interpretation of the direction on the way of singing the aria (Orpheus to the sound of the wood organ and a chitarrone sings only one of the two parts) could be to underline that the two parts ought not to be confused or, nevertheless, not to make the practice obligatory in case vocal resources should not permit the virtuoso performance that has obliged modern performers, out of a misplaced sense of pride, to venture only on the ornate version, avoiding the other version. Editorial practice has often sought not to create difficulties that would prevent the sale of editions. Luzzaschi for this reason supplies a keyboard reduction of his madrigals, in order to allow personal performance where there were no adequate singers and Frescobaldi suggests in his Toccatas that the player has no obligation to finish all but can end where he wants.

It is often found that a direction associated with a particular element of performance may be sometimes imprecise, as in the two surviving printed editions: for example in the list of instruments there is indicated one flautino alla vigesimaseconda while actually there are two, one clarino and three trombe sordine that are, in fact, four (quinta, alto e basso, vulgano and basso), two chitarroni that in the balletto Lasciate i monti (‘Leave the mountains’) and the aria Vi ricorda boschi ombrosi (‘Do you remember, o shady groves’) are actually three, four trombones that are actually five, without mentioning the anomalous direction at the end of the second act that indicates in the Underworld scenes the entry of the trombones, cornetti and regals (in the plural), while the viola da braccio, organi di legno and clavicembali must be silent, to re-appear in the fifth act (in contrast with the directions for the accompaniment of the

aria Possente spirto), as the double harp called into service at the end of the fourth act in the plural (and there at least two) together with the ceteroni that have not been indicated before.

The myth of Orpheus was current in Mantuan culture from 1480, when Poliziano wrote for the court his Favola d'Orfeo, which Striggio certainly had before him when writing his libretto, with changes that include the omission of Aristaeus, who is still present in Sartorio's Orfeo of 1672.

The structure of the opera is, with some adjustments, in accordance with Mantuan tradition. There are five acts, as in the Orphei Tragredia, the anonymous author of which is strongly influenced by the Poliziano's Orfeo; (the Argumentum corresponds to the Prologue of Mercury in Poliziano, with the comic connotation of the Slavonian shepherd, allotted by Striggio to Musica); the Actus primus Pastoricus (‘First Pastoral Act’) has its counterpart in Striggio's celebration of the marriage of Orpheus and the shepherd dances; Actus secundus Nymphas habet (‘Second Act with Nymphs’) corresponds to the entrance of the Messenger; Actus Tertius Heroicus (Third Heroic Act) offers the laudatory eclogues of Orpheus, replaced in Striggio by the great solo Possente spirto; Actus Quartus Necromanticus (‘Fourth Necromantic Act’) centres, in Striggio, on the gods of the Underworld, and finally Actus Quintus Bacchanalis (‘Fifth Bacchanlian Act’) corresponds with the Bacchantes in the libretto of 1607, replaced, in the scores that have come down to us, by the descent of Apollo. It is great cause for regret that the Orphic finale is lost, a conclusion more in line with the tradition mentioned above and with the aims of an academy meeting that was the probable occasion for the first performance of Monteverdi's Orfeo at the Accademia degl'lnvaghiti represented in music on a limited stage, according to the dedication with which Monteverdi prefaced the first edition.

In the earlier model by Poliziano, Orpheus clearly declared his intention of dedicating himself for the future to pederasty, a vice in secular circles that was typical of the 'pedants' (recalling Dante's teacher Brunetto Latim) and of the humanists:

From here I go to take new flowers
the spring of the better sex
when all are comely and slender
this is sweeter and tenderer love.

and to this end famous examples are given:
In this Jove put his whole trust,
who, charmed by the sweet bond of love,
enjoys in heaven his fair Ganymede;
and Phoebus on earth enjoys his Hyacinthus:
to this holy love Hercules yields
who conquered the world and by fair Hylas was conquered.

He ends quite categorically with advice:
lexhorted those married to divorce
and let each man shun female company.

Probably the Apollo scene was added to create a happy ending, while the elimination of the scene of the Bacchantes (certainly for Lady Eleonora de'Medici the scene would not have been suitable for an assembly of ladies) could have occurred as a second thought and would explain the limited duration of the fifth act. On the other hand the text of the ascent of Orpheus with Apollo, quite different from the rest of the libretto, could at this point be the work of Rinuccini, in perfect confirmation of the portrait of him by his contemporary Cini: In poetic material he is sometimes too self-indulgent and often allows himself to stray from the point, tending to upset and add to the writing of others with artificial cleverness and wisdom.

Certainly a Bacchic finale is more typical of the sixteenth century and already for the wedding of Cosimo I and Eleonora of Toledo the comedy II Commodo by Antonio Landi, performed on 9th July 1539, had ended with an intermedio of Bacchantes, set to the rhythm of the Moresca. The composer was Francesco Corteccia. Cavalieri himself, in his preface to the Rappresentatione di Anima e di Corpo (‘The Representation of Soul and Body’) advises the use of the Moresca: such dances or Moresche, since they appear outside common usage, will have more about them of grace and novelty: as, for example, the Moresca for battle and the Ballo on occasions of jollification: as in the Pastoral of Silenus three Satyrs engage in battle, and on this occasion carry out their combat singing and dancing to the tune of a Moresca.

On the basis of this tradition, the present recording takes again the finale of 1607 (of course in a spoken version), putting the Moresca in its natural place and suggesting the ritual sacrifice of Orpheus, for whom the libretto suggests, without explicit indication, a bloody end during the Bacchic rite properly so called, expressed in verses alternating with the Ritornello of the Bacchic cry Euohè.

He has escaped from this avenging hand,
our wicked adversary, Thracian Orpheus,
despiser of our high value.

He will not escape, for the heavier
does it fall the later it comes,
heavenly anger upon a guilty head.

This is in line with the tradition of Poliziano who clearly describes the tearing apart of Orpheus:

O, O! Let us tear his heart from his breast.
Let the guilty man die, die, die!

followed by the direction:
The Bacchante turns round with the head of Orpheus

finishing with a 'Sacrifice of the Bacchantes in honour of Bacchus' that is in accordance with the rite in the 1601 libretto.

The only remaining trace of the Bacchic scene in the final and definitive version of Striggio's Orfeo is represented by the six verses containing insults against women in the form of the sdrucciolo (with a stressed antepenultimate syllable, anomalous with regard to the preceding context), a verse form typical of a scene of orgy and in any case in a style that is strongly theatrical and popular: Poliziano uses the form for the intervention of the shepherd Mopsus in contrast to the formal canzone of Aristaeus. Palestrina's successor Ruggero Giovannelli dedicated two books of madrigals to the verse form. Verses of this kind are clearly separated musically and rhythmically (and also partly visually) from the rest of the great lament of Orpheus in the fifth act, ending with praise of Eurydice. The tradition is, in any case, present in the iconography of Mantua and Ferrara. It is enough to recall the Psyche Room in the Palazzo Te in Mantua or the chamber commissioned for himself by Alfonso II d'Este (analogous to that constructed and decorated in Mantua for his sister Isabella d'Este, wife of Gianfrancesco II Gonzaga) for which Titian made paintings known under the name of Offering to Venus, The Andrii and The Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne, later taken to Rome in 1598 by the Cardinal-Legate Aldobrandini. Here is seen a double and quite different interpretation of the Sinfonia that follows these sdruccioli verses: this is one of the leading motifs of the opera and has already been heard immediately after the entrance of Charon and later as a magic moment when Charon is lulled by Orfeo's singing. For this final mood the direction suggests delicate orchestration: This Sinfonia is to be played very, very softly, with viole da braccio, an organo di legno and a double bass viola da gamba, a contrast in instrumentation to the so to speak normal version on the other two occasions, when trombones must be used, following the directions at the beginning of the third act. In this way the Sinfonia would underline the solemnity of the appearance of Charon and of Apollo. In the present recording, therefore, the Sinfonia is heard on all three occasions with the delicate timbre of the viols to indicate the sound of the lyre that first introduces the aria Possente spirto, then sends Charon to sleep and finally gives way to the mourning over the torn body of Orfeo, The Moresca at the end of the opera, in the edition of Amadino, was probably left there by Monteverdi as a particularly brilliant example of dance music even if its placing results in fact in making incongruous the true finale of the version we have (in line with what would be the traditional ending of many oratorios and operas), that of the chorus Vanne Orfeo (Go, Orpheus).

Before examining the opera the importance must be underlined of the realisation of the continuo, particularly in this period of recitar cantando: the apparently meagre indications presuppose that the continuo player will improvise, as Caccini says in his Nuove Musiche: The inner pans should be used to express feeling of whatever kind. This was widely realised with the proliferation in the Baroque and classical period of accompanied recitative, fully notated, that was entrusted in the first phase of opera to the improvisation of the continuo player, who had to be very active in intervention in order to enrich every expressive nuance. From the testimony of Agazzari (in 1607, the year of the first performance of Orfeo) and that of many contemporaries, it can be deduced that other instruments were called into active participation in improvisation, but not as in a recent edition, where all instruments play an 'improvisation' written by a modern conductor, throwing light on the apparent monotony of opera arias of the time in which the interventions of the violins are written solely as Ritornello. The complete legitimacy of using different continuo instruments for separate characters is, furthermore, clearly demonstrated in a letter of Monteverdi himself on 19th December 1616:

The harmonies of the Tritons and other Sea Gods should, I think, be on trombones and cornetti and not on citterns or harpsichords and harps.

or, again in the Notice to the Readers in Cavalieri's Rappresentatione: And Signor Emilio would commend the changing of instruments to suit the feeling of the singer.
Artikelnummer 8554094-95
Streckkod 0636943409428
Utgivningsdatum 1998-03-27
Kategori Ej specificerad
Skivbolag Naxos
Enhet CD
Antal enheter 2
Artister Cappella Musicale di San Petronio
Dirigenter Vartolo, Sergio
Kompositörer Monteverdi, Claudio
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